All Grain 3 Gallon Batch Pale Ale

Here is probably about the millionth Pale Ale recipe and to be honest, I can’t claim credit for this one as it’s really just another standard beer. That said, I think this one turned out great! My best pale ale thus far with really clean flavor and aroma. Not an extremely hoppy beer, I would say it’s just about right. I’d say this is my favorite pale ale period and will be brewed again.

Recipe

Date Brewed: 11/20/2015
Planned Total Gravity points 1.050 ~ 150 pts
Starting Gavity: 12 brix actual 1.048 og
Final Gravity:  5.8 brix 1.011fg approximately 5% abv

3.5 lbs 2 row ~ 105 points
1lb german munich ~ 29 points
.6lb white wheat ~ 14.5 points
1oz l60 ~ 1.5 points
1/2 Whirfloc tablet with 5 minutes left in boil.

Batch sparge to collect about 3.75 gallons. On my system this boils down to approximately 3.25 gallons.

Hops
.50 centennial @60
home grown cascade .35oz @30

Approximately 40 IBU

Yeast
SF05
Fermented 3 weeks in a 3 gallon keg.

Kegged using set it and forget it method at 12 psi.

Result

This was my 3rd pale ale attempt and by far the best. Previous attempts were a bit too sweet for some reason and/or very yeasty tasting. This was perhaps due to bottle conditioning and not long enough fermentation time. This one resulted in a very clean flavor, slight citrus flavor from the hops, typical pale ale color. Aroma is honey like but does not come through in the flavor profile. Great balance between citrusy hop and malt flavor.

All Grain 3 Gallon Homebrew Rye Basil Saison Recipe

Earlier this year I came across a fantastic beer by Tennessee Brew Works called Basil Ryeman at a local bar. With this in mind, I set out to recreate, though perhaps not replicate, a similar recipe.  It was difficult to find a good recipe for such beer on the small batch scale (2 – 3 gallons) so I decided to craft my own.  My goal here was to create a beer where the basil and rye were the stars, so this was not going to be a hoppy beer. I also wanted a sessionable beer so I was shooting for an average ABV beer.  With that in mind, here my 3 gallon batch recipe which with a goal of 1.045 sg. My personal system yields around 30 gravity points per pound per gallon using my DIY Cooler Tun and manifold so be sure to adjust according to your own system.

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3 Gallon Recipe

2 lb Pils ~ 60 gravity pts
1 lb rye ~ 25 gravity pts
1.0 white wheat ~ 29 gravity pts
.5 lbs flaked rye ~14 gravity pts
1 smack pack of Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison yeast
60 min mash @152 deg F
batch sparge to collect approximately 3.5 gallons or whatever your system requires to boil down to 3 gals.
Measured SG turned out to be 1.042

For the hops, I went simple based on what I had available. Again, this was not inteded to be a hoppy beer so I was shooting for rather low IBUs, somewhere between 20-25. My recipe was closer to 20.

.25 oz Citra @ 60 mins
.10 oz Citra @ 0 mins

Lastly, the Basil addition. An internet search yielded suggestions that were all over the place. So I decided to go simple and go with store bought prepackaged Basil which conveniently came in a 1 oz package. This was added with less than 5 minutes left in the boil.

1 oz Basil @5 min (gives very intense Basil flavor and aroma)

I allowed the Basil to steep by leaving the wort for 30 minutes after flameout before I started the cooling process.

Fermentation

Fermentation on this one was quite long. This was my 8th Saison batch and it seemed to take much longer to ferment than any previous version. The airlock never stopped bubbling during the entire time.

The beer was fermented @ a constant 78 degrees and it took approximately 3 weeks to ferment out.  This beer was done at the end of the summer so temp control inside the house was not an issue.  Unfortunately, I did not record the FG gravity so just be sure to measure a couple of times at 2 to 3 day intervals until FG is stable.

After fermentation was complete, I gave it another 2 weeks before racking to a keg, placing in the kegarator for 1 full week to for carbing @41 degrees and 12psi.

Result

The end result, was an extremely tasty beer. My version was much lighter than the TN Brew Works version I mentioned at the start. It also had a much more intense Basil aroma and flavor. I personally like the intense Basil flavor and aroma so I felt it was perfect. The Saison funkyness was very much present as was the slight hint of spyciness from Rye. Hops are present but are more of a side note. It is a very refreshing beer which would make for a great summer brew. Overall, I was very happy with this brew and would definitely brew it again.

 

Marzen Ale Recipe?

Ok, so before the beer gods and beer snobs get their panties in a bunch, I realize that a Marzen/Oktoberfest is a lager not an Ale. That said, making a lager is not always practical or feasible for that matter. This is why I am calling this one a Marzen ale.  So yeah, I am taking some liberty calling this one a Marzen beer, but then again, I am doing this for my own satisfaction and consumption so I can call it whatever I waht =). So here is the recipe that I came up with/picked up on various sites and forums. Before you brew this, which no one probably will other than myself, let me make the disclosure that this was my less than 10th batch. So take take it with a grain of salt and perhaps use it as starting place for your own.

Yield is 2 Gallons, Boil was  2.75 gallons. I was still in the process of figuring out the starting boil volume so you could probably start with as little as 2.50 gallons to achieve a higher starting gravity.

2lbs goldpils vienna
1.75 lbs munich
.125 lbs carapils
.125 lbs caramunich

OG~ 1.048 (12 brix measured on refractometer), FG~ 1.012 (6 brix measured on refractometer)

~ hops – To be honest, I’m still working on figuring hopping schedules so I will leave this one up to you.  Keep in mind that this beer should not very hoppy so you want to keep the hops to a minimum.

~yeast- Once again, I was plenty liberal with the yeast selection as I went with what I had on hand. I used Safale US-05, not traditional but that’s what I had. I pitched 1 packet into the 2 gallons.

Mash was around 155ish for 60 min mashed in the mini mash tun.

Boil for 60 min.

I let this one sit in the primary fermenter for 3 weeks at around 68 degrees F then bottled. I think I will let this one sit in bottles for another 3 weeks.

Pre Bottle Tasting

I just bottled this one and had a taste of what didn’t fit in the bottle. My initial, impression was that it was very Sam Adamish Boston Lager which tells me it’s a very drinkable beer and in the neighborhood of what I was going for.  It was a bit sweet and had a very malty aroma but it was flat so it’s hard to tall what the end result will be. The color ended up being on the copperish/golden side so it whas a nice looking beer. This one won’t win any awards but then again I’m not going up for competition so I think I turned out to be good beer. I will update my taste impressions once this has bottle conditioned for a few weeks.

Final Tasting

By far my best beer to date! I know I am only 10 batches in but I really enjoyed this one. As I said in the pre bottle tasting, the beer turned out to be very much like a Sam Adams Boston Lager in flavor. Of course not as clean since it was not lagered but it did condition for about 4 weeks which I think reduced much of the sweetness from the Pre Bottle tasting.

Conclusion

I think it turned out to be a good beer and in the character for what I was going for. As I mentioned earlier in the post, I am not a brewer that gets hung up on the style and strict adhesion to tradition. I brew because it’s a fun hobby and I like drinking beer. I am also a tinkerer at heart. If you want to brew a traditional Marzen, then you probably haven’t even gotten this far but if you like to brew for fun and like to experiment, then I think this a beer worth brewing.

 

 

 

 

Northern Tool Dry Cut Metal Saw Switch Replacement

The Northern Tool Dry Cut metal saw is an excellent piece of equipment that I have used to cut the slots on my mini mash tun.  So when the saw quit while cutting the slots on my version 2.0 copper manifold, I was a bit pissed off to say the least because this saw set me back about $350 a couple of years ago. After a bit of trouble shooting, basically making sure the carbon brush was not bad I basically determined it was the switch that was bad. You can continue reading if you’d like but basically, the Superior Electric SW77 On-Off Switch for Skill saws. Will work as a replacement. The leads and the mounting screw holes are the exact same so the switch instals fine and the saw works just fine.

How to Test the Switch

The first step is to remove all of the screws from the top arm cover. The saw should be locked in the down position for safety and ease of removal. The cover is basically the top of the handle and the arm that goes up and down. Remove all the screws marked in red in the image below, note there are 2 not shown. I had also already removed the handle and it’s screws in the image below.

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Removing the cover reveals the trigger switch with a total of 4 leads, 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom. The top leads are the always hot, so you will read voltage even if the saw is turned off. Using a multimeter, place it across the two top leads to verify voltage. Next, place your multimeter leads across the 2 bottom switch leads, while doing so carefully pull the switch, make sure hands are AWAY from the blade as the saw can suddenly or intermittently turn on. While doing so, if the voltage reads 0, then your switch is bad. If it reads steady voltage then the issue is probably not the switch. If your voltage reads 0, you can also try finagling the switch at different speeds and pressure and you may notice that voltage is erratic and the saw may turn on intermittently, this also means your switch is bad.  Again, be careful with the blade!

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Removing The Switch

The switch is very easy to remove. Step number 1 is to unplug the saw, step number 2 is to make sure the saw is unplugged. Then simply remove the screws that hold down the the switch, these are the top screws you see in the image below. The switch will now come loose, so lift it up so you can get to the two bottom lead screws. Make sure not to loose the gold color rings that will surely come off, the new switch will NOT come with these.  That’s all there is to it. Screws needing removal are marked in red below.

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Now removing the switch is the easy part, next comes figuring out where to get the replacement. The switch model is a jiaben fa1-10, I will save you the trouble and tell you there is no replacement on the internet. You may be able to call Northern Tool for parts and maybe they have it. I did not bother because I wanted my saw up and running as quick as possible. So next, I landed on Amazon and after doing a quick search on chop saw switches, I quickly discovered the exact switch was nowhere to be found. There were several Dewalt switches that looked like it but the leads were different. I then found the Superior Electric SW77 On-Off Switch for Skil saws. Now I could tell this switch was not the exact replacement but I knew it would probably work because the leads were the exact same as were the 2 top mounting holes. The biggest difference between this and the original were that the trigger was smaller on the Skil unit and the switch body was a bit shorter.  I decided to take a shot on the switch as it was only 10 bucks and was Prime eligible.

To make a long story short, the switch is basically a direct replacement and will work just fine. The only problem is that you will need to pull the right hand wires a bit as they are too short as is. The wires are held down by being pushed down on some slots but they have plenty of slack by removing them from the slots and repositioning them so that the leads are closer to the switch. The only other issue is that the trigger slot on the handle will not be filled in all the was as the actual switch rocker is about 1/2 the length of the original.  The leads are the exact same as were the mounting holes as I suspected. The saw is now operational so this switch will work just fine.

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Tips for Using your Mini Cooler Mash Tun

tun0Before I start with some tips, I will start by saying that my experience with this mash tun was my first. That is to say, I had never homebrewed before so I don’t know how it compares with the larger mash tuns that are used for 5+ gallon batches. If you haven’t built your mini cooler mash tun, then take a look here. That said, I now have well over 30 batches under my belt and this system has worked great! It will take some tweaking here and there before you have a good process. Here are some helpful tips I have learned.

What I’ve Learned So Far

1. Heat your mash water to 172-175 and use approximately 1.5 qts of water to 1lb of grain. Most of my recipes are in the 4-4.5 pound of grain range and I use about 6-7 qts of water. Basically, you don’t want to thin a mash or you will have a hard time with your starting mash temperature being too low.  I also “preheat” the tun with about 2.5 qts before adding the grain.

2. Expect about a 5 degree drop over the course of an hour mashing time.

3. You will loose about 1 to 1.5 quarts of water to the dead space that cannot drain out of the cooler so plan your water quantity accordingly. For a 1.50 gallon pre boil yield you want to heat up at least 2.5 gallons of sparge/mash water. For a 3.5 gallon pre boil yield you want to heat up about 4.5 gallons of sparge/mash water.

4. Tilt the cooler to get the last 2 or 3 quarts of drainable wort out of the cooler.

5. Turn your manifold slits facing mostly down! Leaving them up or sideways is guaranteed stuck sparge.

6. Be careful with the ball valve. The cooler plastic has some give when turning the ball valve lever so you don’t want to be too aggressive with it.

7. Dough in carefully so that you don’t disconnect or accidentally disassemble the manifold. Nothing would suck more than having to put your hand in 150 degree water attempting to re assemble the manifold with water and grains on top of it. Believe me, I had to do this once and it sucked big time!

8.  A 3 gallon batch is probably about the most you can realistically do on this tun.

DIY Mini Cooler Mash/Lautering Tun for 1, 2 or 3 Gallon Homebrew Batches

tun0In this post, I will talk about building a mini Cooler Mash/Lautering Tun. This is essentially a smaller version of the one described in the John Palmer How to Brew book. This design uses a small rectangular 16 quart Coleman Excursion cooler. This little cooler retails for about $20 but any similarly sized square cooler you may have laying around the house will work.  That said, I think 16 quarts is about the smallest you can go while still maintaining a usable design. I looked into smaller coolers and soon discovered that their dimensions would not allow a decently sized manifold. Another item of note is that the square design will be much easier to build a small manifold like this than the round cooler design.

Necessary Parts

Of course you can always build yours however you want but this is what I used:

  1. 16 quart Coleman Excursion Cooler-$20 from Amazon and is Prime eligible.
  2. Stainless steel ball valve. You can piece yours together but the best place I found to get it was from bargainfittings.com as they have a full Bulkhead Kit for coolers, no guessing required. I used the standard kit but I would recommend the extra long kit so you can fit a washer both in and outside the cooler thus making it more sturdy. The standard kit will only allow you to use 1 washer. You can customize your bulkhead kit however you want but I went with the 3 piece ball valve, Female x 1/2″ Hose barb for inside option, 1/2 Hose-SS for hose barb for valve and 1/2 NPS Locknut & gasket option. This will run around $20 + shipping.

tun5tun2

  1. About 2 1/2 feet of 1/2″ silicone tubing. You will need about 1″ to 6″ of the hose to connect your manifold to your ball valve on the inside of the cooler and about 2 feet for the drain hose. You can also get this from bargain fittings for about $8. You can probably use vinyl tubing here but I feel safer using the more heat resistant silicone hosing.
  2. 5 foot length of 1/2″ copper pipe from Home Depot or Lowes. You will also need at least 4 90 degree elbows and 1 copper tee.  This will run you about $20.
  3. Drill bit capable of drilling a 7/8″ hole, this step drill bit will work perfectly.  This is the hole for your ball valve. The drill bit also comes in handy if you want to build a 2 gallon mini bottling bucket.
  4. A hacksaw,skill saw with metal blade, sawsall with metal blade or similar for cutting the copper.
  5. Food safe RTV Silicone (optional but recommended to be 100% leak free)

Total bill will be between $70 or $80 if you have to purchase the drill bit and cooler. This may seem expensive but I have seen false bottoms go for $50 and none for smaller batch brewers. Of course if you have a cooler and drill bit laying around you will save yourself about $30.

Drilling the Hole

Building it is pretty straight forward. The main things to do are to drill the hole into the cooler for your ball valve and of course build the manifold.

Before you go to town on the cooler, you want to be careful that you drill the hole low enough to maximize fluid flow and extraction but not too low that your ball valve washer does not fit. As you can see in the image below, the Excursion cooler is angled at the bottom so you want to drill your hole such that the ball valve and it’s washer fits nicely above this angle.

tun5

The easiest way to go about this is to place the washer as low as possible but still remaining flat against the cooler wall.  Trace the middle washer hole to locate your hole.  If your drill does not fit on the inside of the cooler, then measure the center of the hole and transfer it to the outside for drilling outside in. A step drill comes in handy here because it way shorter than a standard bit thus allowing you to fit the drill inside the cooler so you can drill from the inside out. The ball valve fitting is designed to fit a 7/8″ hole so your drill bit must be as close to that size as possible. Again, a step drill bit works great as the one in the parts list has a 7/8″ step. The bargain fittings website claims this ball valve will work on a 1″ hole but I have a feeling it will leak and require extra silicone.

Once you have the hole drilled, then simply install your ball valve. One item of note here and that is no matter how tight I got the nut on, the ball valve hole still had a very slight leak. I cured this with “food safe” silicone. 100% silicone will work fine here I think provided you use a very small amount. Just enough to get around the washer and stop the leak.  Be sure to let the silicone dry for at least 3 days with the cooler lid open before using it. I used a product  purchased from Amazon called Momentive RTV 102, this product was said to be food safe by the manufacturer.  You can see the silicone below which is not very much, just enough to fill the gap between the washer and the cooler wall.

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Building the Manifold

Building the manifold is the most challenging part of this DIY mainly because making the slots is  tedious no matter what you use. My manifold measures approximately 9″ in length by about 5 1/2″ in width. The center piece that attaches to the silicone hose for the outlet measures about 5 1/2″ but would have probably been better at 7″.  Dimensions for each piece are listed below.

  1. 2 side pieces @8″
  2. left piece closest to ball valve @4 1/2″
  3. Center outlet piece @5 1/2″ but probably better @7″
  4. 2 right pieces on either side of  T fitting  for the outlet @1 3/4″

I arrived at this design because those were all the copper fittings I had on hand. Build yours however you want provided you follow some of the suggestions mentioned in the How to Brew book.

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The easiest way to build the manifold is to start with the 5 foot copper pipe and  measure the length of copper that is to be slotted. Do not cut it to length yet, just mark the length measurement as well as your slots. Now do the slotting ONLY. Once slotted, cut it to your measured length. Rinse and repeat for each slotted piece. My manifold had a total of 5 slotted pieces as you can see below. Making the slots before cutting to length  is a hell of a lot easier than cutting to length then trying to rig some sort of clamping system to hold the small pieces of pipe. Initially,  I measured my slots about 1/2″ apart because the blade I used to cut them was pretty thick and I didn’t want to screw it up. I came back in later and added slots in between the existing slots. You can see these in the middle piece below, the rest are not completed yet. You may want to decrease that distance if you are using a thin blade such as a hacksaw or skill saw.

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Now I will talk a bit about the slotting because finding a tool to do the slots is the hardest part. Now I was lucky enough to have a cold metal cut saw which made the slot cutting a breeze. If you don’t have one of those then here are my suggestions in order of effectiveness.

  1. Skill/Jigsaw with a metal blade.
  2. Reciprocating saw with a metal blade.
  3. Angle grinder with cut off wheel.
  4. Hacksaw.

You may be tempted to use a regular wood chop saw or table saw. While copper is a relatively soft metal, these may work but I highly recommend against it because they spin WAY too fast and are not safe for metal cutting!

For assembly, simply dry fit everything so that it comes apart easily for cleaning. I highly recommend against sautering it together. A few minutes in star sand will leave it nice and shiny for your first batch!  Though the images show the slots facing forward, before operation, turn all slotted pieces so that they are facing mostly down, this will significantly reduce the chances of a stuck sparge. I have been able to make beers with up to 80% wheat and a couple hand fulls of rice hulls without incident.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to building this thing. I found that it works really well. The wort flows nicely and runs free of grain after a few vourlauf runnings.  As for efficiency, this little system works great. Initially, I was getting around 70% efficiency with grains that were purchased pre milled. I then bought my own mill and efficiency improved to over 80%!  Additionally, this little cooler stores nicely without taking too much space and very easy to clean.

 

Oops, There’s a Mouse in My Homebrew!

IMG_0320Ok, so maybe I exaggerated a bit, there really wasn’t a mouse in my precious hombebrew. First and foremost, before I get PETA all over my ass, let it be known that I am an animal lover. I have been known to rescue a mouse from a recently dug fence post hole. That said, when it comes to mice in the house, they are fair game for the dogs, mouse traps and in this case a Fat Tire bottle.

Anyhow, I was recently going through the process of removing some labels from some freshly consumed Fat Tire bottles that had been left in the garage. I was happily rinsing said bottles, a bit buzzed after downing a few when I came across a bottle that didn’t seem to empty itself of rinse water. I was like, why is this bottle heavier than than the others? Why isn’t the water coming out of this one? So as I raise the bottle to take a look see, I find this critter in the bottle! Luckily, the critter had expired so no further action was required on my part, otherwise I would have been left with a dilemma. To smash the bottle and free said critter or let him suffer a slow death! Did I mention I was an animal over? The answer there would have been smash the bottle and let him go free only to have him return back to the garage for another round of Fat Tire. As it turned out, such drastic measures were not necessary. Now I am still left with the question, how and why did this mouse get in the bottle?? I hypothesize that perhaps he liked Fat Tire so maybe he died a happily buzzed mouse.

All that said, the purpose of this post is not to let it be known I have a soft spot for animals but to bring awareness of the possibility that you may unknowingly dry hop a mouse in your brew! So before you sanitize and bottle your precious homebrew into recycled bottles left out in the garage, be sure to check for unwanted critters or this could bring new meaning to the word “nasties” in your homebrew! And yes, that is the actual picture…

Reusing Beer Bottles and Removing Labels

IMG_0317 So you are ready to bottle your homebrew but need bottles, no worries, just re-use your existing bottles! There’s no need to go out and spend $12 or whatever for 12 empties when you can simply spend $15 for some nice commercial brew. Not only do you get some beer, but you also get the bottles for free! Firstly, make sure you get the non-screw type beer. That’s right, commercial watered down swill need not apply. You will need a beer with some quality bottles. In this example I am using a beer that begins with Fat and ends with Tire. I found these to be very easy to use and remove the label.

Anyhow, removing the labels from commercial beer bottles is totally doable albeit not all that easy but it will save you some cash and allow you to use and re-use bottles that would otherwise end up in the trash.

Removing the Labels

One of the crappy things about using commercial bottles is removing the labels. Of course this isn’t entirely necessary, me personally, I think there’s just something that I don’t like about drinking homebrew from commercially labeled bottles. So I like to remove the labels. While this sounds easier said than done, removing the labels is entirely possible with the right process.

There are really 3 ways of removing the labels. Heat, chemical or mechanical. First, lets forget about the mechanical method. If you’ve ever been just a bit drunk and found yourself mindlessly peeling labels off your beer then you know that this method pretty much sucks a big one. Next is the chemical method. While there’s lots of chemicals out there which will make short work of these labels, you probably don’t want to use them if you actually plan on consuming your homebrew. About the only chemical that you want to use here is alcohol and that’s what we will be using to help us finish the job. That leaves the heat, which is the main method we will use because it’s relatively safe and easy. Heat will simply melt the adhesive making it easier to remove.

The Process

IMG_0319The first thing we want to use is to bring a pot to almost a boil. Any pot where you can fit bottles will work. In this example, I am using a small pressure cooker pot. You may be thinking why not just pressure cook those bottles. The answer is, the pot is not tall enough. So we will fill it about half way with water and bring that to almost a boil.  You don’t want to fill too much as the bottles might just float right out of your pot. Anyhow, you have the water to almost a boil, you want to lower the heat and place our bottles into the pot. I was able to fit 6 or 8 bottles without a problem. The goal here is to simply get it hot enough to peel the label easily. About 5-10 minutes will suffice.  Now I don’t know this for a fact, but you might not want to heat the bottles up too much as we don’t know how much heat they can take before exploding. Better safe than sorry here! Anyhow, once you get them hot enough, take them out of the pot and peel the labels. They will come right off. I used the wife’s oven mitts to take them out of the pot. Sit them on a heat safe surface for a few minutes to let them cool.

Once you have peeled the label, you  will be left with the sticky part on the bottle. This is the hardest part to remove.  Once you remove the label, set the bottle down as I mentioned above and let it cool a bit. You don’t want to got from hot water to cold as you may end up with a bottle exploding in your hands, NOT GOOD!

IMG_0318So let those cool for a bit, they will cool pretty fast. 5 minutes at most. While still on the warm side, we want to spritz some alcohol on the labels, this is the chemical part of our process. Rubbing alcohol works good here. This will make the sticky stuff brittle and not so sticky. Be aware that not all labels were created equal. I used some Fat Tire bottles and found the sticky stuff to turn brittle once cooled and sprayed with alcohol. I also tried with some Lagunitas bottles and found those to remain sticky even after the heat and alcohol treatment. The moral of the story here is your mileage will vary depending on the label.  A small sprayer bottle comes in handy here to spray the alcohol and you may need to spray more than once. As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of other chemicals that will work but I feel alcohol is about the harshest you want to go to keep things food safe.

Anyhow, once you’ve let the bottles cool and spritzed IMG_0315them with alcohol, we need to scrub them with a scotch brite pad. Green, Red, Gray (pads ) it doesn’t really matter. The pad will not scratch the glass and will remove the sticky stuff rather quickly. Scrub the bottle well until you get most or all of the sticky stuff off. On some labels, you will still have some sticky stuff left no matter how much you scrub  but it’s not necessary to get it all off in one shot. If you keep reusing the bottles, it will come off as you wash the bottles  over time so don’t worry too much about that. Our goal is to remove most of the label material so we are left with a virgin looking bottle. Though semi virgin will suffice I think.

Re-use and Re-Use

Once you get the labels off, that’s all there is to it. You can now simply sanitize and bottle as usual. Keep reusing those bottles! If you get on a good brewing schedule, you can ferment, bottle, drink with the same bottle set.

If you hated removing the labels, then you probably don’t want to re-label them and go through this process again. A good alternative is the chalk pen and vinyl chalkboard labels. You can simply peel these off without residue and re-use them. The chalk simply wipes off which leaves you with a fresh label. As a bonus, you don’t have to use your precious printer ink for new labels and you can get as artistic as you want, go crazy on them!

DIY Small Batch 2 Gallon Bottling Bucket

IMG_0300In today’s post, we will be building an inexpensive and easy to build small batch bottling bucket. I guess one of the questions that might immediately come up is why bother building a bottling bucket when all the online Home Brew Shops and all LHBS have them. The reason is simple, there are NO 2 gallon bottling buckets out there, hence we must build our own. While you could use the large 5 gallon varieties, we have to keep in mind that our small brewing operation cannot sustain large losses of our precious brew! With a 5 gallon bucket you might loose 1/2 a cup or more of brew. With our 2 gallon unit, we may loose less than half that. This little unit will also be easier to operate and store.  With that, lets get started! It will only take 5 minutes of your time at most. Total cost was about $20 but most of that was because of the food grade bucket.

2 Gallon Bottling Bucket Recipe

2 Gallon Food Safe Bucket – Of course we can’t have a bottling bucket without the bucket! While you could run out to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s for one, be advised that they may NOT be food safe. I could not find any locally, so I set out on Amazon to locate some. Believe it or not, that was easier said than done. I only found 1 seller selling them at a reasonable price. Be advised that they come in a set of 3 including lids but that’s ok because we can use the other two as small fermenters! Total cost here was about $15.00, unfortunately shipping was $10 and was not Prime eligible.  These buckets are labeled with a #2 HDPE, note that based on my research this does not necessarily indicate “food grade”. You might be able to source some at a local restaurant or bakery.  If you aren’t concerned about food grade or BPA free, then I guess Home Depot or Lowes will do. Here is the link to the buckets 2 gallon Food Grade and BPA Free White plastic bucket with handle & Lid – Set of 3

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Bottling Spigot with gaskets and nut – Any plastic bottling spigot will work provided it comes with the appropriate gaskets and tightening nut. The one I used is for 3/8 hose and required a 15/16″ hole but I think a 1″ hole would do as well. The closer you get to the exact measurement though the less likely it will leak. Drilling a 15/16″ ensures no leakage with just hand tightening the nut. I have a 5 gallon that I bought which has a 1″ hole and it does leak unless the spigot is on super ticket.  At any rate, any bottling spigot will work here provided you drill the appropriate sized hole.Bottling Spigots

Drill with Step Drill Bit– Finally, we need a drill of course and a step drill bit. If you aren’t familiar with those, they sort of look like Christmas Trees.  I highly recommend investing in a good one as we will also need to build a mini mash/lautering tun. This Step Drill Bit
will work perfectly as it has the 1/16″ steps we need for both the bucket and tun Below is a picture of one:

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Let’s Build it

Perhaps “building it” is a bit overstated, all we really need to do is drill a hole! Before we drill a hole nilly willy, let’s find the lowest spot possible without going so low that the nut won’t screw on. One easy way to do this is to put the nut on the inside as if it were installed then just hold the bucket up to a light source and locate the nut’s shadow. Place a mark on the center of that shadow. On my bucket, this was about 1 1/16″ from the bottom of the bucket measured on the outside. I used a caliper to measure which come in real handy for these types of things and are very inexpensive. Remember, it’s better to drill too high than too low.

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Next, we need to drill. Before you start drilling, it is helpful to use a pointed object or punch on your drill mark to make a divot thus making the drill start up much easier without slipping and sliding. You may have noticed the tape on my bit above, this is so that I know when to stop as it is hard to see which step you need to stop at. This maybe obvious but is worth noting, better to drill too small a hole than too big a hole. Here are some shots of our drill bit in action and the final hole. Don’t go too fast!

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Now we simply install our spigot making sure you have your gaskets in place. Mine came with an outside and inside gasket. If you drill it at the exact 15/16″ mark, you will not have any leaks even if you just hand tighten the nut. That’s all there is too it! Before you use it be sure to fill with water to just above the spigot outlet to test for leaks.  I tested mine and after draining all the way down, I was left with very little water, probably less than 1/8 cup, so we won’t loose much brew with this little bucket!  here is our final product

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